After ceiling tiles fell into the pool on Monday morning, the aquatic centre will be closed indefinitely say officials who are now grappling with repair costs that could reach $100,000.
The pool, including the sauna, steam room and hot tub at the Nelson and District Community Complex are closed until at least March 31 with bookings and registered programming cancelled.
At a press conference held Wednesday afternoon, Joe Chirico general manager of community services at the NDCC said an architectural review shows that the roof and building are structurally sound.
However, the ceiling tiles came down due to faulty t-bar supports which still pose a danger.
“There is a risk for the ceiling to continue to fail,” he said. “Our initial information is that the t-bar ceiling will have to be removed and this could take some time so our pool staff and clients will definitely be affected.”
Further complicating the issue are concerns of asbestos in the tiles that date back to the 1970s. Should they contain the hazardous materials, costs to bring down the false ceiling could reach $100,000.
“We do have the tiles off for sampling,” Chirico said. “That will require quite a substantial increase in the work needing to be done to take down that ceiling.”
Once the ceiling is down, rebuilding will begin. Considerations include how to replace the drop ceiling used to increase light on the pool area as well as to reduce noise at the local facility.
Chirico knows the facility will be missed by those using it for rehabilitation, training and to remain physically fit.
“We know that the aquatic centre is a very well used facility. It services people of all ages and it’s an important part of keeping this community healthy,” he said. “Nelson is one of the healthiest communities in the area and this is an important piece of that.”
The RDCK is developing a plan to address current pass holders by February 7. With the facility closure also comes lay-offs impacting at least 10 staff.
The incident comes as the entire building’s structural soundness is being assessed. The recreation commission has asked for an update on the state of the facility, a timeline on repairs, and a retrofit design with an option to build a new aquatic centre.
Removal of this false ceiling was included but not because of any immediate safety concerns, said Chirico.
“We do safety checks around the building,” he said. “The suspended ceiling, because of where it is, is difficult to check. We had not had any failure of that system before. We’ve replaced damaged tiles on it before. So, it’s not something that we were expecting to be an issue.”
The ceiling had been looked at about one month ago, said Chirico.
Ramona Faust, recreation commission chair said finding the money for this fix considering the entire facility is aging is difficult.
“At this point we’re looking into all option as to how funding will take place. This was supposed to be a planning year for us so we could look at the facility as a whole. So, at this point we have to bring the process forward, obviously, and decide what the scope of the repairs are at this point,” she said. “It’s premature to say where the money will come from but it’s safe to say that if it goes beyond the order of magnitude that Joe speaks of, we don’t have that in reserve.”
CEO Brian Carruthers said the RDCK is currently in budget discussions so any repair cost estimates could be incorporated in the board’s discussions. Ultimately, getting the facility up and running again as soon as possible is the goal.
“There’s going to have to be a fair bit of work in front of that to make sure that what ever we do currently to fix the situation is going to be cost effective and in consider of any future development that might happen at the pool, we don’t want to spend a whole lot of money on something that’s going to be changed in another year. So, there’s going to have to be some strategic thinking,” he said, “There’s a big unknown right now.”
The tiles came down during an aqua fit class and it’s not lost of anyone involved how lucky it’s been no one was hurt despite how close swimmers were to falling tiles.
“What’s important to us is that no one was seriously injured by the portion of the ceiling that came down, and that our staff and public are safe,” Chirico said.